APES ON FILM: Do Not Open ‘til 2023 – The Delayed Legacy of MALLRATS

Posted on: Aug 11th, 2023 By:

Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.



3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Jason Lee, Jeremy London, Shannon Doherty, Claire Forlani, Ben Affleck, Jason Mewes, Michael Rooker
Director: Kevin Smith
Rated: R
Studio: Arrow Video
Region: 4K UHD Region Free
BRD Release Date: June 27, 2023
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 94 minutes


Lucky for director Kevin Smith, a slew of big-name critics mined a wealth of cultural commentary and social subtext in his first film CLERKS. The critical success of the director’s first movie placed him in front of major studios looking to cash in on this new cultural firebrand. And while, yes, CLERKS does manage to muster some kind of then current subtext on commerce and the grind of the middle class, Smith has all but admitted that it wasn’t intentional. Inspired by Richard Linklater’s strangely paced film SLACKER, that follows one oddball conversation to the next and never returning to any kind of plot, Smith set out to basically borrow Linklater’s energy with CLERKS. For what it’s worth, a middle-class fanboy with a passion and a lot of free time, made out pretty damn good. CLERKS is indeed an entertaining and culturally relevant success that has aged relatively well in spite of its ramshackle style.

So, when the big studios came calling, Smith went with what he knew worked and essentially set about making the same movie that had earned him so much acclaim. Except this time, success was not in the cards. MALLRATS shapes up to be a mild revision of the characters in CLERKS, but set in the larger, more culturally pervasive environment of the American shopping mall. One could draw a parallel to George Romero’s zombie sequel with DAWN OF THE DEAD, stating that all roads lead to commerce, and what better spot to showcase such than the mall. At any rate, lightning did not strike twice for Kevin Smith; at least not at first.

Motormouth ersatz comic book scholar Brodie (Lee) and his pal T.S. Quint (London – a nod to Robert Shaw’s Quint from JAWS?), take their broken hearts to the mall to ease the forlorn burdens they’ve recently suffered and plot their way back into love with the women who’ve recently abandoned them. As the two mosey about the mall bumping into a cast of dynamic, hilarious characters they each have some narrative connection to, in the background is the impending taping of the cable access game show “Truth or Date” where T.S.’s now ex-girlfriend Brandi (Forlani) is the date-seeking contestant. It becomes the boys’ mission to infiltrate the show and win back lost loves in a grand show of affection and shocking revelation.

Financed by Universal Pictures’ new indie film division Gramercy, Smith had a new element breathing down his throat that he never had to contend with on CLERKS: major studio interference. While Universal/Gramercy prided itself on the conceit and the artistic notions of the independent filmmaker, it wanted to have its cake and eat it too, demanding Smith make compromises that likely affected the reception of the film. The most significant accommodation forced Smith to omit a fourteen-minute bit of exposition that laid down why the main character Quint is so loathed by his girlfriend’s father Mr. Svenning (Rooker). And while the studio sought the opportunity with Smith to make “a smart PORKY’S,” they also wanted to cut down on the foul language. Gramercy lobbied for big name stars and sought to recast Mewes’ iconic “Jay” character, the real heart of the film’s puerile comedy, with the likes of Seth Green. Though the studio was not successful, it’s clear that Smith and his bosses had different intentions. All this and a troubled marketing campaign arguably lead to a failed second feature for the director.

We’ve seen the plot of this film a million times, so the movie’s charm and reason to watch lies within its characters. Smith provides a range of smarmy youths with whipcrack language so sodden with post adolescent wit that it could only ever have the advantage of being written. While admittedly juvenile, Smith’s dialogue is at times hilarious and often helped by the actors’ performances, the strongest of which is Jason Lee who delivers most believably. The weakest of the gang is Jeremy London who rattles off Smith’s overwrought lines too fast and never more convincingly than a community theatre audition.

MALLRATS is more character study than anything, and remains as a glimpse into the youth of the 1990s. Time alone has built the success of the film more than any marketing campaign or opening weekend box office. And speaking as someone who came of age seeing this film within the decade it represents, subtext, context, and all that stuff you learn about in film class falls second to the lovable, relatable characters and the chemistry they concoct on screen.

Over the years, Smith’s energy and wit has been replicated to the point of exhaustion, saturating films up to and including the Marvel Universe with his brand of cross-reference and humor. In a career-defining meta move for Smith, Stan Lee who makes a notable cameo in MALLRATS can even be found in Disney/Marvel’s 1990s set CAPTAIN MARVEL rehearsing his lines for his appearance in this film – Marvel nerds can bounce around and hyperventilate about how MALLRATS is now technically canon within the MCU. In spite of the director’s bouts of mediocrity outside of his “Askewniverse” (named for his production company View Askew, that consistently features Jay (Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) amongst other recurring characters), Kevin Smith is less a filmmaking influence than he is an unstoppable cultural bellwether.

Arrow Video presents MALLRATS on 4K UHD Blu-ray disc with loads of special features including a wordy introduction from Smith; Theatrical and Extended cuts of the film; a commentary with Smith, his producer and stars; a number of interviews; deleted scenes; archival materials; and Erection of an Epic: The making of Mallrats documentary. Arrow’s release also features an illustrated booklet with writing by film writer Philip Kemp and a fold out poster of replica blueprints for “Operation Drive-by” and “Operation Dark Knight” plotted by Jay and Silent Bob in the film. The disc comes packaged in a reversible sleeve of original and newly commissioned artwork by Robert Sammelin.

MALLRATS’ success in 1995 is irrelevant. While it was a critical and financial failure, it remains a cult hit that lives on to be quoted and referenced to this day. A time capsule of a dying brick and mortar institution of commerce, MALLRATS remains steadfast as an exemplar of the tyranny of nostalgia as a personal museum exhibit for a specific group of people from a specific time within their generation. Recommended.



When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly. Look for Lucas on Twitter, Facebook, and Letterboxd, and for all of Lucas’s content, be sure to check out his Linktree.

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